Earlier this week Theresa May reopened the debate around fox hunting by promising a free vote on repeal of the ban in the House of Commons if the Conservatives win the General Election.

This has sparked a fierce debate once again as to whether this is a valid form of pest control and a traditional past-time or if it's a cruel sport which needlessly hurts animals.

Hunting foxes and other mammals with dogs was made illegal in England and Wales by the 2004 Hunting Act.

The five Stroud General Election candidates have been contacted for their opinions, with a mixture of responses.

Conservative Neil Carmichael has clear views on the subject and said: "It's always been my clear position that I would vote to repeal the ban on fox hunting".

He told the SNJ in 2015 how strongly he supported hunting, saying: "There is no divine right here of one group to have their views imposed on another, that’s why we are in a democracy."

“I think it will be an opportunity to at least improve the legislation so that hunting can continue, and I’ll be voting for a sensible way to improve the legislation on foxhunting.”

Labour's David Drew however is strongly against repealing the ban, adding: "If anything the legislation should be strengthened.

"We need more prosecutions of illegal acts of hunting by clarifying the law.”

Mr Drew was Stroud's MP at the time the bill was passed back in 2004, and was in favour of the act.

Tony Blair's government had a lot of support for the ban in the House of Commons, MPs supported the second reading of the Hunting Bill in a free vote by 356 to 166.

There is an opinion that Theresa May bring up fox hunting is a distraction from more important issues, the Lib Dem candidate Max Wilkinson told the SNJ: "The Tories are only reopening this debate as a distraction from their reckless approach to Brexit and their mismanagement of the economy, which is reflected in the latest growth downgrades."

But he did also clarify his position: "If elected as Stroud's MP, I would vote against any repeal of the Hunting Act because I support the law as it stands - as does an overwhelming majority of people across the country in both rural and urban areas."

This is a view supported by UKIP's candidate Glen Gogerly, who also believes this discussion to be a distraction but is in favour of the ban.

Mr Gogerly said: "I believe this to be a distraction from the main concerns of ordinary people and I will be concentrating my efforts on real issues affecting everyday lives.

"I wouldn't vote to repeal the fox hunting act as I believe fox hunting to be an elitist cruel sport and my views are the same for all types of hunting."

The Greens have a strong and clear opposition to fox hunting, during a debate in 2015 Co-Leader of the Greens, Caroline Lucas, said to the then-Environment Secretary Liz Truss that not only should the ban not be repealed but extended, asking: “Instead of proposing yet more cruelty to animals, why will she not look at extending the Act to grouse shooting and hare coursing, which also are cruel and hugely opposed in this country?”

Stroud Green candidate Sarah Lunnon supports the ban, she told the SNJ: "Green Party policy is to maintain the fox hunting ban and I would not vote to repeal it, however we do need to manage our countryside so that top predator species can flourish - both mammal and bird species, and not become viewed as pests or vermin."

There is widespread support for the ban, a poll published on Boxing Day 2016 showed that 84 per cent of respondents were in favour of keeping the ban with 72 per cent of 2015 Conservative voters supporting the ban.

The response on Facebook to Theresa May's plan for a free vote and on fox hunting has been very negative, with readers describing the sport as "barbaric, cruel and disgusting" and another saying: "Revolting. I grew up around the hunt and it's the most despicable sight."

Cllr Lesley Williams simply said: "Definitely a NO from me. No, No, NO!"

But others feel that there are more important issues in this election, with Barbara Imrie saying "I'm against hunting but I think it's trivial compared with being wrenched out of Europe, public services starved."

So do you support the ban? Vote in our poll below.